The Essential Acadia
Acadia National Park
* This Atlantic jewel is the oldest park east of the Mississippi, having been designated as Lafayette National Park in 1919. Initially embraced by East Coast blue-bloods in search of a cool summer retreat, these days Acadia is embraced by families looking for a mix of woods and sea coast and couples searching for a romantic getaway.
* If you prefer warm temperatures and don't mind crowds, July and August are perfect for an Acadian adventure. Not controlled by school calendars? Arrive in mid-to-late September and you'll enjoy the run-up to the peak fall foliage and yet still enjoy warm temperatures. For pure solitude, come in mid-winter, especially when snowstorms have coated the carriage paths enough to allow cross-country skiing.
* If there's time for just one hike during your stay, venture up the South Ridge of Cadillac Mountain. This 7.4-mile roundtrip takes you through forests and up onto Cadillac's granite shoulders where you'll enjoy views of Frenchman's Bay.
* Best Adventure? You actually have to leave the park, but a puffin cruise can be unforgettable, as few get to see these comical little birds with the colorful beaks that roost on islands off the coast.
* Kid-pleaser? Scampering along the rocky coast to search tidal pools for their resident sea urchins, sea stars, anemones can fill an entire morning or afternoon...or at least until the tide starts to return.
* How to escape the crowds? Head off down the carriage paths on bikes. The farther you pedal, the more solitude you'll find.
* Best dinner? For a crowd, that'd be found at Poor Boy's Gourmet where reasonably priced lobster dinners are legendary but the $8.95 Early Bird specials are renowned. For a quieter atmosphere, head over to Cafe This Way and sample the Vegetable Stack or the Lemon Vodka Lobster.
* Best breakfast? Try the Cottage Street Bakery and Deli, where youngsters can feast on chocolate chip pancakes.
* Best "Acadian" pleasure? Popovers and tea at Jordon Pond.
* Best lodging, price not an object? For couples, retreat to the Keeper's House Inn on the Isle Au Haut, a separate island that's part of the park. If you prefer to stay on Mount Desert Island, check into the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor.
* Best bargain lodging? The cottages at Edgewater are decidedly cozy, but draw families year after year.